We're on holiday. Holiday! Hah! It's a change of scene here in sunny Suffolk but not a rest. And in light of the promise to myself to update these musings a least weekly (ish), what better subject to ramble on about whilst on holiday than MELTDOWNS!
Deep breath. Here goes...
I thought the Bell had embarked upon Terrible Twos a few months ago. You know, she'd thrown the odd wobbly, refused to wear her mittens from time to time, burst into tears inexplicably now and again. That sort of thing. Classic Terrible Twos right?
NOT BY A LONG SHOT.
Let it be remembered. Friday 19th April 2013 at 10.24am. Twas the day the Bell opened her Terrible Twos account in absolute earnest. To say the least it was a shit trifle challenging of a day for me.
We arrived at our usual Friday morning playgroup in a local community hall. It was the first session back after the Easter holidays and from the word go the Bell was not on top form. My big sell to her earlier that morning, as we waged civil war over getting a jumper over her Peppa t-shirt, was that the community hall would have been redecorated over the Easter holidays. That had been the plan anyway. It would be bright, airy and FUN FUN FUN. But nothing had been done.
The Bell was less than impressed. Or she was just in a crap mood?
My heart sank.
A playgroup occasionally gives me the opportunity to relax, just for a bit, to have a coffee and to talk to people over the age of five years old for a bit. I like it. It keeps me going. It reminds me of how I used to socialise at paid work.
But erm, sorry, that just wasn't gonna happen today Dadda.
Now if the Bell is usually more Lady Mary Crawley (Downtown Abbey, Upstairs, Refined), the moment she was set free the from the buggy she became more O'Brien (Downstairs, lady's maid, watchful, in the mood for revenge) as she set about righting the twin injustices of a playing environment needing a lick of paint and being forced to wear a tomato-sauce-stained Next jumper over her beloved Peppa t-shirt. And after ten minutes she had successfully completed just about every annoying available act to her at a playgroup.
• Pushed and scrapped chairs around the hall. CHECK.
• Eaten play-doh and glue. CHECK.
• Woken a young mother's baby sleeping in a push chair. CHECK.
Now she wanted more.
Fast forward 20mins or so and the Bell really was absolutely itching for WAR. She was ready for the mother of all battles and unfortunately it was her brother who was to light the meltdown litmus paper.
The duo were quietly pottering around a table of paints and glue (not actually painting or glueing you understand) when the E-Man had the audacity of merely LOOKING at Maisy Goes To Nursery, a book which because the Bell enjoys at at home (along with the other 14,000 books available to her) clearly in her eyes blatantly violated Rule 502: Toddlers Don't Share Under Article 8(5).
What followed was pure hell theatre as the Bell chased E-Man around the table in hot pursuit of Maisy Goes To Nursery which the E-Man wasn't about to relinquish. No Siree.
Now I have been attending playgroups for the past 26 months, 11 days, 10 hours and 12 minutes, 14 seconds (I'm slightly tiring of the circuit, get it!) but I like this one and the people who run and attend it. This was EMBARRASSING. We all go to playgroups where toddlers occasionally let rip and I we quietly tut at the misbehaving toddlers as my our cherubs play on. But this time it was my angels creating havoc. This time it was my charges reinventing the concept of Terrible Twos Tantrums - but I had two of them at it! WHAT!
Shocked mothers, some breast feeding, withdrew their babies and toddlers to all corners of the room. Some even headed for the exit doors only to be thwarted immediate escape by scores of baby buggies cluttering the way.
Now, in the normal course of events, dealing with the tantrums would have been obvious. I would calmly remind myself that the E-Man and the Bell are naturally very NEGATIVE during this challenging period in their lives. I would reflect on the fact that their tantrums are a sign of their frustration with me the world and their inability to communicate this frustration.
My immediate options were clear:
• Ignore them and walk away. (Too embarrassing, too many people were watching).
• Use calming techniques to lower my own stress levels, like deep breathing, positive talking inside my head and more coffee. (But I didn't want to look like a freak).
• Talk calmly to each of them: 'Don't worry E-man, I'm here. I won't let you hurt yourself.' (To both at them to same time?)
• Hold each of them tightly (Ditto: at the same time?)
• Calling a 'time out' and asking each of them to retreat to a safe but boring corner to cool down. (But anywhere safe was now inhabited by other quivering toddlers).
So which option did I take?
I got the hell out of dodge.
And it was as I was attempting to straightjacket each of them into their buggy that my personal humiliation was complete. What happened next comes waaaaay top of the list of the cringingly bad and embarrassing moments for any mum or dad.
Another mum had to help me strap one of my toddlers into the buggy.
Is there another scenario more embarrassing for any stay-at-home dad? (Well, for me it would be being asked my a breastfeeding mum to please leave the playroom. It hasn't happened yet, but I read about such a scenario in the Daily Mail Online).
We left in shame... my self-esteem in shatters.
Getting home all I wanted to do was plonk myself on the sofa and shed a tear. But I couldn't. We needed to pack as we were going on holiday.